Tuesday, February 28, 2006

A rose by any other name

A simple sand pendulum can create complex, interesting figures as the point swings through the sand - Lissajous figures. These sand pendulums are often sold in little shops. One of the shops in Port Townsend, not far from Seattle, happened to have their pendulum swinging at the moment of the 2001 Seattle earthquake, and this image is left to us to ponder. The owner named it The Earthquake Rose.

I feel the earth move under my feet

Seattle is on the Ring of Fire, a massive curve around northern part the Pacific Ocean. As the tectonic plates move, we develop neighbors who like to party. Five years ago, 28 February 2001, Seattle had a reminder of our party-hardy neighbors: an earthquake. Everybody has their story to tell and everyone remembers exactly where they were when "it" happened.

I was in the office of my boss, having a routine 1x1 meeting with him. The first rumble hit and it was like a heavily loaded cart rolling down then hallway - just a loud rumble. A few seconds later, a louder rumble with a distinct floor motion hit. I asked Gene (my boss), "Is this an earthquake?" "No, don't be silly." By the time he got the "...lly" out of his mouth, we were both standing in the doorway of his office, looking at each other, because the third rumble hit and hit and hit. It seemed to go on forever. There was a fellow outside Gene's office, sitting at his desk and staring up at a light fixture that was swaying back and forth. "Gee, you really ought to get away from that and under your desk." "Huh? What?" he said as he watched the fixture sway. It seemed to go on forever, but it probably lasted five seconds of so.

Gene and I walked around the floor to inspect any damage and to ensure that anyone needing help or attention got it. Luckily, we were in a new building so most of the damage was to items that slid or bounced off desks to the floor, and a couple of bookcases that weren't properly secured to the walls. I waited around until the official all-clear announcement. I had to wait until the city bus lines started running again.

The bus ride was a little strange. The city was silent, nearly still. The route for the bus I needed took me into the Seattle Metro Bus Tunnel. I must say it is a bit odd to ride through a tunnel in the aftermath of an earthquake. No obvious damage - the engineers had checked it out before re-opening it, of course - but one feels like the ultimate gambler to go below the earth after an earthquake.

Next day? Back to work.

Note: it is normally a bad idea to stand in a doorway during an earthquake. Much wiser to get under a table or sturdy piece of furniture that's away from glass windows. In this case, the door was a sliding door rather than a swinging door, so the response was reasonably safe. A conventional swinging door tends to flap in harmony with the earthquake (literally), slapping you out of the way should you attempt to interfere with its path. Avoid doorways, head under a table or desk.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Where have all the flowers gone?

The Northwest Flower and Garden Show comes to Seattle like a tropical breeze each February. The floors of the Convention Center blossom with displays and booths. This display was an interesting combination of flowers and glass in the style of Dale Chihuly.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Don't know much about history

You look at this picture and you probably think it's inane. Here's the secret: it's not inane, it's art. Yep, there's a plaque on that utility cover in the foreground. A significant plaque. Well, OK, I'll let you judge for yourself (I assume a singular readership here, and I don't mean distinctive, I mean unary).

The plaque reads as it says. Kirkland, WA.

Grazin' in the grass

What do you do with a valley floor that is also a floodplain? You might build houses or businesses there, but they would flood regularly. Here's a clever idea: build a sod farm. Yep, grow grass. Then when the fields flood, you don't lose much. If the floods recede quickly enough, you don't even lose the grass - it will recover quickly.

This is the valley of the Sammamish Slough and you're looking north from the north side of Redmond, WA. The Slough is to your left. In the distance you might be able to make out the Chateau Ste. Michelle Winery, but I rather doubt the visibility is good enough. The Columbia Winery (must be over 21) is nearby and so is the Red Hook Brewery. Yes, we have all the conveniences here.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Slip-sliding away

The good side of all that rain is: snow in the mountains. We went skiing at the Stevens Pass Ski Area on the afternoon of a recent football game. It was great. The day was sunny, as you can see to the right, the crowds were light, the snow was good, and the lift lines were brief. There was even plenty of seating and eating room (normally it's a struggle to find a place to sit).

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Rain, Rain, Go Away

It is raining again in Seattle. After a day of brief relief - it takes just one to interrupt the record string - we're back into rain. Two and a half times the average amount of rain for January and an inch short of the wettest January on record. Water is everywhere. The rivers had started to drop, but they're higher than ever. Hillsides are slumping; one stretch of a hill slid into the Oso River and blocked it. The emergency folks brought in construction equipment to dig a new river channel to save nearby houses.

This is to be someone's basement. The rain will drain, the ground will dry, the cement will pour, the foundation will harden, the house will go up, and the happy people will move in. Seattle - we can survive anything!